The Star-Spangled Banner

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The Star-Spangled Banner is the current national anthem of the United States of America. The poem (lyrics) was written by Francis Scott Key. On 13 September 1814, during the War of 1812, Key visited the British fleet in Chesapeake Bay to negotiate the release of Dr. William Beanes, who had been captured after the burning of Washington DC. The release was completed, but Key remained with the British overnight during the shelling of Fort McHenry, one of the forts defending Baltimore. In the morning, Key saw through clearing smoke an American flag still flying after the 25 hour bombardment of Fort McHenry. He wrote a poem to commemorate the occasion, noting that it should be sung to the popular British melody "To Anacreon in Heaven." In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson ordered that it be played at military and naval occasions, and in 1931 the Star-Spangled Banner became the national anthem.

The most commonly used section is the first verse, the words of which are:

O say, can you see, by the dawn's early light,
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming,
Whose broad stripes and bright stars, through the perilous fight,
O’er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming?
And the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.
O say, does that star spangled banner yet wave
O’er the land of the free, and the home of the brave?

Contents

History

Francis Scott Key visited the British fleet in Chesapeake Bay during the War of 1812. His purpose was to obtain the release of Dr. William Beanes, whom the British had captured after invading and burning Washington, D.C..

Key was successful in his mission, but was held anyway by the British overnight during the British shelling of Fort McHenry, which defended Baltimore. The British bombardment of the fort lasted a merciless 25 hours. The following morning, Key was thrilled to see a gargantuan American flag still flying despite the bombs, and he composed a poem in honor of that endurance.

He did not compose the music, which is not an original score. Instead, he simply suggested that his poem be sung to the familiar British tune, "To Anacreon in Heaven."

In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson ordered that it be played at military and naval occasions, and in 1931 it became the official anthem.

In the aftermath of the 9/11 terror attacks, many American tourists were stranded in Britain. The "Changing of the Guard" ceremony at Buckingham Palace is usually watched by several hundred onlookers, mostly tourists, who line the pavement in front of the palace to see the centuries-old tradition, which dates back to 1660.[1] On 13 September 2001, a crowd of around 5000 people, mostly Americans, had gathered in the absence of few other focal points in the capital for the American community. In an unprecedented move, the Queen ordered the band of the Coldstream Guards to break over three centuries of tradition and to play the Star Spangled Banner as a sign of respect and solidarity. [2]

Complete poem of The Star Spangled Banner

Oh, say can you see by the dawn's early light
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars thru the perilous fight,
O'er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming?
And the rocket's red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.
Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

On the shore, dimly seen through the mists of the deep,
Where the foe's haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o'er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning's first beam,
In full glory reflected now shines in the stream:
'Tis the star-spangled banner! Oh long may it wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle's confusion,
A home and a country should leave us no more!
Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps' pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave:
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

Oh! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved home and the war's desolation!
Blest with victory and peace, may the heav'n rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: "In God is our trust."
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

References

  1. Graves, David Palace breaks with tradition in musical tribute Daily telegraph, 14 September 2001. Accessed 14 February 2008
  2. Kelso, Paul US anthem played at changing of the guard The Guardian, 14 September 2001. Accessed 14 February 2008.

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